Metro authorizes solicitation for Fort Totten joint development

Last year, Metro released its 10-year strategic plan and included Fort Totten in the list of stations for which Metro would seek a joint development partner in the near term. The Washington Business Journal reports that Metro has given the green light to prepare solicitations for joint development at several Metro stations, including Fort Totten.

From the Board document.

At Fort Totten, the proposal could support approximately 680,000 square feet of future development by converting the 408 space Park & Ride lot into a garage and replacing the MTPD precinct.

Aventine Fort Totten is a joint development project that was completed in 2008. In 2013 Metro solicited proposals to redevelop the long-term surface parking lot at Fort Totten station. That solicitation received no bids. Metro subsequently received an unsolicited offer to develop the lot and put out an RFP again in 2014. That solicitation resulted in the selection of Donatelli in 2015. That project was cancelled in 2018. Now Metro is preparing to try again.

Some may or may not know that there is an area development plan for the Riggs Road/South Dakota Avenue NE corridor that was approved by the DC Council in 2009. That plan was fully incorporated into the Comp Plan in 2021. Some also may or may not know that in 2010 Metro released a joint development study for Fort Totten station. All of these combined with the transportation access study that Metro released in 2011 provide good context for plans for the station area. (All of these documents are in the Neighborhood Document Library on the blog).

A lot of development has happened since those plans and studies were released.

  • Fort Totten Square, which includes a Walmart with a decently sized grocery component, was completed in 2014.
  • The Cafritz Foundation completed the first phase of its large development project Art Place at Fort Totten in 2017 and is under active construction on the second phase. The second phase is expected to be completed around 2025.
  • The Brookland to Fort Totten extension of the Met Branch Trail opened in April 2022.
  • The rebuilt Lamond-Riggs Library opened in June 2022.
  • EYA is nearing completion of the first phase of Riggs Park Place at the corner of South Dakota Avenue & Riggs Road NE. A number of families have moved into the new townhomes there. Groundbreaking on the senior building/retail component of the project will be next.
  • UDC is undertaking a campus plan process for the Bertie Backus Campus at South Dakota Avenue and Galloway/Hamilton streets NE that will see phased campus development over a few years.

In the midst of all of this, we had a pandemic that shifted how people think about designing spaces for large numbers of people to use.

We also have Metro’s decision to stop runing the yellow line to Fort Totten, which is an interesting one from a development perspective. It used to be the case that one could tout the fact that Fort Totten was the only station outside of the downtown core that had three lines servicing the station. Of course, having two lines is not so shabby either, but still just a perspective I have not seen in all the chatter about the yellow line.

Shortly after starting his tenure as the new general manager of Metro last year, GM Randy Clarke made his rounds of the system. I met him at Fort Totten station and told him that hopefully with some lessons learned from what could have worked better with Aventine and previous bids, Metro can put together a package for Fort Totten that will see a high quality project come to the area. I know construction costs are much higher now and there are supply chain issues still. But we can still do better than what Metro did with Aventine. We can have solid, high quality urban architecture & construction; pedestrian friendly design; appropriately scaled spaces; recycling/waste diversion receptacles on the grounds; advanced stormwater management; better connections to the MBT; and wayfinding signs. In other words, we can have what all the plans for this area contemplate, meeting the needs of Metro and the needs of the surrounding neighborhood.

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